No matter how many graduations I attend as a student, teacher, coach, principal, and now Superintendent, there is something remarkably unique about each one. Sure the buildings are different, the school colors vary, and the grounds have their own special characteristics, but those aren't the things that distinguish a graduation and give it special character. The truth is that it is the people who give a graduation its authentic signature.  It is the special stories – the individual and collective histories – the laughs – the cries – and the unique celebrations that only insiders can understand.  A high school graduation takes on a life of its own through memories of classroom accomplishments, the pain of late night studying, exciting playoff runs, amazing concerts, beautiful art shows, shared smiles of happiness during good times, shared hugs of comfort during tough times, and a unique history that galvanizes a class of amazing students, proud parents, and dedicated teachers into a true Whitman family. The reality is that outsiders simply cannot understand what you (well, we) are feeling right now.  Your Whitman experience is a complex, rich story that includes hundreds of twists and turns, ups and downs, and wonderful variables that combine for a lifetime of memories, and I consider myself so fortunate to have been invited in some small way into your class of 2015 family.  I have been at your side with pride and watched as you cheered each other through good times, and picked each other up during some incredible struggles and tragedies; and through each and every moment, I stood in awe of just how much you cared for your Walt Whitman family.  The truth is that I have never seen a class stick together and care for their school and each other so deeply.

If I am experiencing these feelings after only three years with the Class of 2015, you can only imagine the pride being felt by the people behind you who have shared your entire lives. Your moms and dads, your grandmothers and grandfathers, are feeling things right now that are almost indescribable.  I know that because I see it in their eyes, feel it through their tears, and believe it through their proud smiles.  You see, this thing called parenting is the most complicated job in the world. We start out just a few years older than you are right now, with almost no idea of what we are doing.  In most cases we have barely paid a bill or lived on our own when we are handed this beautiful baby and told to meet our new son or daughter.  It starts out so incredibly simple as we strap in the car seat and show you off to relatives, wait for you to roll over, convince ourselves that a mumble sounds like you’re actually saying mommy and daddy, or call everyone from the neighborhood in to see you take your first steps or hear you read your first words.  Then the pace picks up and the real roller-coaster ride called parenting begins to gain steam.  There is the first day of school when we are quite clearly more nervous than you.  There are little league ballgames, music recitals, and talent shows, where we sit in the audience with a pride that is simply indescribable.  There is the stress over Regents Exams, a pit in our stomach over SATs, nervousness over your driving test (in my house for each of the 5 tests it took to pass).  Then there are parties, dances, boyfriends, girlfriends that come with school and all the joy and drama those entail.  When you are happy, your parents are happy, when you are hurting, your parents’ hearts break, and they want nothing more than to take your pain away and bear it themselves.  We quickly learn, however, that this is not the way life works.  In fact, the older and stronger you get, the less we can control the variables that impact your lives.   Remarkably, parenting is the only job in the world that if done well, makes the people we love most need us less and less each year.  Now while there is a certain degree of melancholy in that reality, there is also the greatest feeling of accomplishment in the world. 

While our hair might be graying a bit, and the vast majority of our life decisions such as career, marriage, and home selections have been made, you provide us with a fresh, open slate.  Your moms and dads get up in the morning and believe the future is bright because they have a chance to live through your accomplishments. They (We) all smile a little wider and puff up with a bit more pride because of the men and women that you are and will become.  It is almost impossible to imagine the things you will do, the places you will go, and the impact you will make on your families, this community, and your country.  When all is said and done, you are the greatest gift we have left.  You are our reason for believing!  So I ask you to be a bit patient with the teary parents, grandparents, teachers, and staff today.  You see they (we) love you so much, and we see hope springing eternal, and inevitable possibilities in your future.

So now, as I say good-bye, I want to leave you with those same parting wishes that we give to every graduating class.  I hope you take a piece of South Huntington pride with you into the next phase of your life.  I hope you find college life rewarding and that you fall in love with your new school the way we fell in love with you.  I hope you find a career that makes it a pleasure to get up in the morning and keeps you proud each and every day.  I hope you meet a person whose eyes you can stare into one day and say, “I do,” knowing that you’ve met a soul mate that you’ll have for the rest of your life.  I hope you know the blessing of having a son or daughter wrap their arms around you and hear the words, “Mommy, Daddy, you’re my best friend.”  I hope you know the blessings of good health.  I hope you’re close with your own parents and recognize their wisdom for many, many years to come.  And, most of all, I hope you remember us and keep Walt Whitman High School alive in your hearts for the rest of your lives. 

I know that I will emerge from this year with the lifelong pride and understanding that for one small moment in time, I stood shoulder to shoulder with the Class of 2015.  I could never thank you enough for the blanket of warmth that you have wrapped around our community.  You are truly remarkable.  God speed, Class of 2015.  We love you very much.